Monday, July 26, 2010

Passing the Torch - Part 2

There is a current push in Fortune 500 corporate type circles to help employees identify their areas of strength so that the employees can leverage those strengths to make more money for the company. It’s actually the result of a 30 year study, conducted by Gallup, where the research team tried to identify characteristics that top performers share. They were looking for one or maybe a few psychological factors or talents that high achievers have in common. The thinking was, apparently, that if they knew what they were looking for, it would be easier to eliminate the poor performers before they were stuck with them as employees. Stick with me here because this is really very interesting and has application in parenting too.

Gallup looked at workers across every conceivable field of interest, including financiers, teachers, artists, athletes, doctors, lawyers, tinkers, and tailors. The reason it took the researchers 30 years is that they couldn’t pinpoint any particular set of psychological traits or personality types that were shared by the people they studied. What they ultimately found is that there are 29 different areas of strength (i.e. leadership, flexibility, rational thought, harmony, deliberation, etc) and that nobody is good at all of them but everybody is good at some of them. What top performers share is that they have risen to the top because they have learned to capitalize on their areas of strength rather than working fruitlessly to improve their ability to perform in those areas where they are weak.

It was an eye opener for large-scale employers. The days where annual reviews focus on what you didn’t accomplish or what you could have done better are giving way to giving employees ownership of the jobs they do and getting them to engage in their jobs by identifying and recognizing their areas of strength.

Long before I was exposed to the results of the Gallup study, I recognized that most parents have a tendency to look at the children of their friends and acquaintances and see THOSE children for all the things they are. And then they look at their own children and see all the things their own offspring aren’t. That’s not a criticism of parents. Lord knows I’ve spent most of the last 30 years in the same pattern. All the way through high school, if any of my children brought home a report card that had three A’s, two B’s, and a D, it was the D that got attention. That kind of parenting behavior is rooted in all the hopes and dreams we have for our children because we love them. Now I think that approach is as counter-productive in aiding them to reach their potential as primarily focusing on the things they are good at, and not dwelling on their failures, is counter-intuitive. It’s simply not part of most of our parenting bags of tricks to ignore what we perceive as deficiencies. But good parents, like good employers, can learn to focus on areas of excellence, in order to maximize potential. They can learn that you cannot turn a weakness into a strength; that all we can really do is help those in our charge develop ways to minimize the impact of
the weaknesses.

And so most of this is another iteration of that singular theme from yesterday. Chill. Recognize that she is what she is; assisted by her unique combination of genes and acknowledge that nature and nurture should work in harmony to bring her to her best. If she is going to be a lily, you can’t turn her into a cactus by withholding water. And, if she’s destined to thrive in the desert, more water than she needs will keep her from blooming.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Passing the Torch - Part I

A young woman I know, and one who happens to be one of my daughter’s most cherished friends, very recently had her first baby. I have no doubt that she and her husband will develop top-notch parenting skills that will exemplify the amazing young people they have already proven themselves to be. So, I would not offer them parenting advice if she hadn’t issued an open call - especially since I’m not one that believes it takes a village to raise a child. I can clearly recall multiple occasions where I felt it appropriate to remind relatives, friends, and/or educational personnel who it was that give birth to my three offspring and assured them, each in turn, that when I wanted their advice I would remember to ask them for it.

But since this young woman did make such a request, and I’ve been at this for over 30 years already, I’ve decided to accept the challenge and share what my children have taught me.

Most of it can really be summed up in one word. Chill. Children, even the very young, have an innate ability to let you know what they need when they need it. In no time at all you will recognize the tone of the cry. But, if it takes you awhile, or even if you just disagree with her current demand, she is not going to explode or disappear into a puff of dust if she doesn’t get what she wants, or even needs, right this very minute. That’s as true now when she thinks she wants a bottle as it will be when she’s 6 and wants a pony or 16 and thinks she needs a Mustang Convertible.

Chill. The horse will drink when it gets thirsty. It is NOT your job to tell the horse when it’s thirsty. It is your job to provide the skills needed to recognize thirst and the skills needed to find the water.

Chill. Let her find out who she is. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t set boundaries and standards. Of course you should. It does mean that when those boundaries and standards cause conflict – and they will – that you will win some of the ensuing battles and you will lose some of them. And you should not mark your success as a parent by keeping score. Nor should you mark your success as a parent by your child’s successes or failures. GOOD parents have children that fail at life and parents that do TERRIBLE things have children that do amazing things with their life.

I’ll post part II of this tomorrow . . . . it’s pretty much along the lines of “Everything I Need to Know About Parenting, I Learned in Business School.”

Friday, July 16, 2010

Top 10 Reasons for Staying Married

10. He makes really GOOD hamburgers.

09. He likes to mow.

08. He gets up to take the dog out in the middle of the night.

07. He doesn't expect me to pick his clothes up from the floor. (Let's be clear. He's not going to either but he doesn't expect ME to do it.)

06. He doesn't take himself seriously.

05. He knows how to fix my internet connection.

04. He encourages me to pursue the things that interest me - even though most of them bore him to tears.

03. He never suggests that I should lose weight (even though we both know I need to).

02. He "gets it" when I cry.

01. He fixes the coffee in the mornings!